Labour's shadow health secretary has revealed ambitions to expand medicine use reviews (MURs) and give pharmacy a bigger role in monitoring patients' conditions, in an exclusive interview with C+D.
Labour leader Ed Miliband's promise to inject an extra £2.5 billion into the NHS was an "opportunity" for community pharmacy, Mr Burnham told C+D at the party conference on Tuesday (September 23).
Mr Burnham did not refer to the sector in his own conference speech, but insisted to C+D that there would be a "bigger role to play" for pharmacy under a Labour government. The party's plan to "swing the pendulum away from the hospital and towards the community" would provide an incentive to fund "local, public-facing" services, he said.
Mr Burnham said he was "open-minded" about pharmacy's role and was "particularly keen" to support patients on prescription medicines by expanding the MUR service. "We've had a good discussion with the sector and want them properly involved in this," he stressed.
Pharmacy could be "more active" in helping to get people off long-term medications by monitoring them on a "day-to-day" basis, Mr Burnham added.
Mr Burnham spoke to C+D the day before his speech, in which the shadow health secretary laid out Labour's 10-year plan for the NHS. If his party came to power, it would ensure people with long-term conditions were treated by a GP-led team of healthcare professionals who would create a personalised care plan and treat patients in their own home, Mr Burnham told the conference.
Pharmacist Khalid Ahmed, who attended the conference, said Burnham's speech had been a "waste of time" and he was considering cancelling his Labour party membership.
"He talked about health and social care but not about pharmacy. If [pharmacists] are attending on our own time and expense, then we have a passion for the NHS," he told C+D.
At the conference, Mr Miliband vowed that his party would "transform" the NHS by deploying an extra 8,000 GPs, 20,000 nurses and 5,000 care workers. Labour would pay for the extra staff with a £2.5bn "time to care fund", raised by taxes on tobacco companies and homes worth £2m or more, he said.
Last year, Mr Burnham attended a roundtable discussion with pharmacy representatives in which he challenged the sector to play a greater role in preventative care.